Big Ben: iconic clock secretly restored in Cumbrian village

  • Report by Tim Backshall

A tiny Lake District village has managed to keep one of Britain's most precious national symbols safe and sound for three years.

Hidden from view in a converted cow shed, a team of clock makers been restoring what is perhaps the most famous clock in the world, Big Ben.

The 161-year-old timepiece, located in the Elizabeth Tower in Westminster is undergoing an £80m refurbishment.

Keith Scobie-Youngs from the Cumbria Clock Company was tasked with restoring the clock. More than 1,000 parts were shipped to his workshop in Dacre, where his team has spent three years working on the project.

He told ITV News, "It's been remarkable really. I've been a clock maker all my life, wanted to be a clock maker from the age of 14 and I did my time as an apprentice and improver in London and drove past Big Ben, the Great Clock of Westminster nearly every day so to suddenly be given the opportunity to bring the world's most famous clock into the workshop in Cumbria and undertake the biggest restoration and conservation project it's ever undergone in its 161 years has been, well you can imagine what it's been like." 

Credit: Big Ben Cumbria Clock Company

Locals in the village were aware of the project, but were sworn to secrecy.

Keith explained, "I think they decided to become part of the security system. They were really good. We had to take down all the signage for the Cumbria Clock Company and people knew the clock was here. We just explained that we didn't want any damage to happen to this icon of the UK and I think people bought into that and if odd people were seen knocking around the workshops it got reported back better than the CCTV we've got round the place anyway." 

While the project was underway, Big Ben still had to be operating in London, so Keith and his team so you had to put on temporary hands in the interim.

"That was quite interesting. Part of the whole project was that one of the dials had to show the correct time all the time during the project and obviously having to remove everything they needed something to show the time with. So part of our contract was to make a very large synchronous electric drive unit and a replica set of hands. Peter, who was in charge of that part, he made a set which were identical and so we put those on and hardly anybody noticed the difference and over three years they became the most photographed item in London and they were made in Cumbria. That's quite brilliant I think."